Profiles by Brian David-Marshall
Welcome to the voting for the 11th annual Magic Invitational!
What becomes a Resident Genius most? This ballot was still a work in progress when it was introduced last year, and as a result it was one of the most hotly debated. With the introduction of Constructed Master as an additional category this season, overtime was put in to clarify the controversial crown. For one thing…the Resident Genius is not all about the 60-card decks. It is also not about how a particular player plays a particular deck. Play skill—and this is in no way a slight against any of these five top-notch competitors—is at the heart of the Constructed Master and Limited Expert categories while Resident Genius is more about the intangibles. These players have the ability to create format-defining decks, know when to zig in anticipation of a metagame zag, and define the way we all play the game through the experiments they conduct in their top secret labs.
Winner: Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (43.8% of votes)
When introducing Guillaume Wafo-Tapa during the Top 8 webcast in Yokohama, Randy Buehler and I pointed out that while his name might be unfamiliar to listeners, they likely had been very familiar with his handiwork for the past year. His name first popped up as winner Pierre Canali’s collaborator on Affinity for Pro Tour–Columbus back in late 2004, an event he was not qualified for. Once Guillaume got to the Pro Tour on a regular basis, his last name became a Friday Night Magic staple when his Honolulu deck was modified by Mike Flores to become Wafo-Tapa Control. Not content with partial ownership of a control deck, Guillaume created Dralnu du Louvre for Worlds 2006 and it became THE dominant control deck for the first half of the 2007 season at FNM, MSS, and 8-Man queues everywhere. After conquering Standard he moved on to Block Constructed and dominated Pro Tour–Yokohama with his take on blue-black-white.
Mark Herberholz (21.3%)
Mark Herberholz was the literal embodiment of Resident Genius at the fabled seaside collective prior to last season’s Pro Tour–Honolulu. More than a dozen of the game’s top players gathered weeks before the Pro Tour to “solve” the format. The result of their collective thinking was a transmute-based control deck known as Beach House. Mark showed up a few days before the event, looked at the midrange product of their work, and quickly determined that he would play the aggressive red-green Heezy Street. Since then Mark has been seen navigating TEPS at Worlds, worked with Gabriel Nassif on the Worlds Top 8 MartyrTron deck, and recently busted out Teferi’s Moat in a Teferi deck to make the Top 8 of Pro Tour–Yokohama. While this category is supposed to be about more than top results, it would be hard to ignore Mark’s performances, which have been nothing short of dominant in Constructed formats.
Mike Hron (3.5%)
Coming into Pro Tour–Geneva’s Time Spiral/Planar Chaos Booster Draft format, the conventional wisdom was that black was by far the worst color to draft. When Mike Hron passed Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to pick Tendrils of Corruption it was clear that he did not subscribe to The Conventional Wisdom Newsletter. That is not to say that players would not draft black if it were the color they were stuck with, but Mike was the rare bird who wanted to be black-X, as he stated in his Top 8 profile. Even after two full days of drafting, other Top 8 competitors were still hoping to dodge black if at all possible. Ironically, the Top 8 of that event was rich in black cards including five Phthisis—none of which ended up in Mike’s stack of Pro Tour-winning draft picks.
Billy Moreno (20.1%)
After bursting onto the Magic scene at the end of the 2005 season, Billy Moreno kicked off the 2006 season with an innovative Zoo build that was able to transform into GhaziGlare for the sideboarded games. His deck was not content with a hand full of Char, Lightning Helix, and Shock and upped the ante with Flames of the Blood Hand. Billy also farmed out his tech to Craig Jones, whose bloody hands clawed their way to the finals of that tournament. For the Extended portion of last year’s World Championships, Billy crafted a Fecundity Goblins deck (a.k.a. Dirty Kitty) that was capable of generating more goblin tokens than Magic Online could keep up with…and that deck ended up one misplayed game away from a Top 10 finish in the hands of Osyp Lebedowicz. More recently his Counterbalance design for Hulk Flash won Grand Prix–Columbus in the hands of Steven Sadin.
Tomoharu Saito (12.4%)
It could have been a sign of an impending apocalypse. Rumbling Slum and Ninja of the Deep Hours playing together? Or…it could be another Tomoharu Saito creation. Saito’s fancifully named Sea Stompy deck earned a Top 16 finish in Honolulu and later carried him to a Top 8 berth at Japanese Nationals. There were no Ninjas for Saito to work with in Charleston and he had to ply his unusual matchmaking skills with Lyzolda, the Blood Witch and Skyknight Legionnaire in his portion of the Constructed Team Pro Tour-winning decks as a member of Kajiharu80 (alongside Shota Yasooka and Tomohiro Kaji). Saito returned to his roots with Pizza Stompy for his Top 8 turn in Yokohama, with Timbermare filling the role originated by Rumbling Slum. His work with Kaji has earned them the nickname "POY Maker"—their third teammate at the team PT in 2005 was Kenji Tsumura, and Yasooka filled that void in 2006.
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